|Golden Hams of the Day|
Ham-Gazers of the Day
- Damiano "The Omen" Cunego (Saeco). It's too early to tell yet if he's the second coming of Coppi, but he certainly is riding like someone who is going to be one the all-time greats. Damiano flew up the last 500m of the climb like he had hellfire tickling his bum, and he snaked not only the stage victory, but the Green and Pink Jerseys as well. While Simoni is still the man on team Saeco, it will be interesting to see how the young Cunego handles the long time trial and the brutal climbs of the final week.
- Giuliano Figueras (Ceramiche Paneria – Margres). He attacked, attacked, and then attacked some more today, putting the hurt on a lot of his rivals and showing that he's a serious contender for the podium in Milan. He came across the line today in 4th, which moved him up to 5th on GC. He also took 3" out of Simoni and Garzelli; while that may not sound like much, I think taking ANY time on those two men in a mountain-top finish of the Giro is pretty darned impressive.
- "Mad" Bradley McGee (FDJeux.com). What the heck was McGee doing with the leaders at the end of a mountain-top finish like that? Hasn't anyone told him that he's not a climber? Okay, okay, the fact the McGee was there at the end to take 2nd in the sprint does tell us that the climb wasn't that steep, but when you beat men like Pellizotti, Garzelli, and Simoni (not to mention all the good climbers who were dropped by that group) on a stage like this one, you are in kick-ass form. We knew McGee was a great rider on good form right now, but we had no idea that he was going this well. In case you're wondering, he jumped from 22nd to 13th on GC today at 1' 49" behind Cunego. With the possible exception of Honchar (De Nardi), who is also riding well, McGee will likely spank all the men currently in front of him on GC in that long time trial next Saturday. That's just something to think about over the next week.
- Juan Manuel Garate (Lampre). The GC man for the boys in pink and blue is a solid climber. However, on a day when many men who are only above-average climbers (e.g. McGee) were with the leaders at the end, Garate finished in 24th at 1' 36" behind Cunego. He also fell from 12th to 20th on GC at 3' 05". Today was definitely a bad day for the Spaniard, but he will likely do better on the steeper climbs in the final week.
- Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner). He fought as long as he could, but he couldn't hold on to the top of the final climb and he lost the Green Jersey to Cunego. There are still a lot of mountains to come, and this has been a great Giro so far for the young German, but I think that the mountains competition just got out of his reach.
- Robbie "Mountains" McEwen (Lotto-Domo) and Olaf "Climber" Pollack (Gerolsteiner). Like most other sensible sprinters, these two sat up early and crossed the line in 155th and 157th respectively, 20' 01" behind Cunego. This was obviously wise, as tomorrow is another day for the sprinters and these two need to save their energy. However, they both were outclimbed by Ivan "Lead Shorts" Quaranta (Formaggi Pinzolo Fiave), who came across in 144th (also 20' 01" behind Cunego). If that's not enough to earn a ham-gazing award, I don't know what is.
Crazy Jane's Prosciutto Squisito
Whoo-hoo! It was a HOT ONE in the Giro today!
First off, I want to give some big ups to the Saeco team for their jailbird kit, and say that I hope their Cannondales never get legalized if we can expect more costumes of this nature. I felt a little sorry for Gilberto, wearing that pink jersey and not being able to join in the fun, because that little dynamo of nuclear weapons grade charm would have been delightful in stripes. I can't, however, say I feel sorry for him that he has lost the maglia rosa, and that brings up my second reason for needing to mention the Saeco team: those boys put in a masterful performance today, and Gilberto Simoni has got to be feeling pretty darned good to see that his boys have really got this race by the proverbial short and curlies.
Last year on stage 7 of the Giro d'Italia, Simoni lost a sprint to Garzelli on the Terminillo. I think it's pretty clear from the two climbs we've seen thus far in this year's edition that when the road really kicks up, and Simoni turns the screws for real, Garzelli will more than likely be begging for mercy, and humping painfully towards the summit while Simoni, that little red imp, dances up the mountains looking as fresh as a daisy; but today wasn't grueling enough for Simoni to work his magic. No, today's finish was a great opportunity for Garzelli to go for the stage and take back some valuable time on his rival, but it was not to be. Garzelli hung tough today, but in the end, he was foiled by Saeco's teamwork, and that is molto, molto, molto squisito.
All the way up that last climb, Damiano Cunego sat behind his team leader, looking suspiciously like a protected man. He marked Figueras's many attacks with unshakeable resolve, and Simoni's little move in the final two kilometers did little more than soften up the opposition. People, I'm sentimental: I nearly cracked a tear watching the maglia rosa lead out his young teammate for the victory. Beautiful!
Cunego takes the pink off his leader's shoulders, replaces Wegman as King of the mountains, and sits just off Petacchi's wheel only 10 points back for the sprint jersey. That youngster is putting in a tour de force performance, so I think I better put him up as our poster boy today, because he's a cute little monkey, too.
Lovin' it in Pink
photos courtesy of the www.gazzetta.it
So Simoni passes the torch to his teammate, and regardless of how much drama the fans and press might like to drum up about a rivalry inside the Saeco camp, I don't think Gibo's losing any sleep over that tonight. Simoni is the worthy leader of a very strong team, and this is still very much his race to lose. For his part, young Cunego will have ample opportunities to show his quality, both with victories like this one, and through faithful service to his team in the days to come. If Simoni should falter, Saeco has another bullet in the chamber. It's looking good for il treno rosso.
All of that is just fantastic, of course, but remember when I said that I nearly cracked a tear on Saeco's account? Well, that's because I was saving myself for that heroic second place from Bradley McGee. Mr. McGee, not generally known for his climbing prowess, dug so deep into his good old suitcase of courage today that he collapsed on the road at the finish, destroying my stoicism entirely! Come on, Bradley, do you gotta play us like that? If McGee keeps this up he stands a real chance of majorly kicking some climber ass in the ITT to come, and he'll be forcing the love out of all of us here at Crazy Jane's copy desk with every pedal stroke. Ooof! Tenacity is so HOT! Go Bradley! GO!
Finally, there is no way I can end this day's round up without a nod to the fallen. The Giro lost her most beloved son today with Mario Cipollini giving up the ghost after his crash two stages ago, and declining to take the start today. When I read the news this morning, I was filled with real sadness. At 37 years old, there's a good chance that we have seen the last of Super Mario in his home tour, and it's a real blow that he had to go out without a bang in this Giro d'Italia. There are those who think Mario Cipollini is nothing but an ego on wheels, and his big personality makes him an easy target for the hecklers to kick a man when he's down, but in this column, we're giving the big man nothin' but love.
To have seen Mario Cipollini unfurl his full height, looking back over his shoulders to see the faces of the vanquished as he glides over the line, resplendent in his victory, would have been a veritable tableau of some of the most beautiful elements in the sport of professional cycling. As an American, I am still basking in the afterglow of Il Rey Leone's unstinting graciousness and class on his recent visit to Georgia, and that's only the freshest example of the way Mario Cipollini has done his sport proud again and again and again.
If Super Mario is working a king-size ego, he's earned it, and I can't help but hope to see him roar again. He told reporters this morning that he hoped to find the will to fight again. Though Cipollini says his morale is low tonight, he will no doubt be looking to Le Tour for redemption, and I, for one, hope he finds it.
Cipollini: tattered, but still King of our hearts!
Arrivederci, Mario, li amiamo!
Girls (and boys!), it's tougher than you think spotting all the charm and beauty of the Giro d'Italia! Do let me know if we are missing your man out there. Your nominations for the squisito distinction are gratefully received at email@example.com.